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What Is Africa Known for & Famous For?
Africa is arguably the most beautiful, diverse, and alluring continent on the planet. Geographical and cultural beauty is rife all across the continent, and it even holds the answers to the origin of humans.
Africa is known for its geographical diversity and captivating landscapes. Famous for its numerous and intriguing cultures and traditions as well as a vast assortment of endemic wildlife and topographical variety, Africa is one of those continents you shouldn’t miss out on.
This article will discuss the many things that make Africa so famous, from its archeological wonders and climate to its safaris, mountains, and history. Let’s dive in as we see all Africa has to offer.
Birthplace of Mankind
You may not know this, but Africa might just be where it all began. Rumored to be the origin of the human species, both East Africa and South Africa have asserted that the birthplace of humanity was in one of these territories.
While we may not know the whole truth yet, we do know that it is relatively likely that Africa was the birthplace of humankind. In fact, Charles Darwin was one of the first to hypothesize that we, as a species, evolved from the great apes of Africa.
One of the most compelling discoveries made in the last century was Raymond Dart’s uncovering of a fossilized brain, said to be the brain of a child who existed thousands of years ago.
As such, the traces of humankind appear to travel from South Africa to the rest of the globe over 200,000 years ago, giving us an idea of where we came from and how we evolved.
Second Largest Continent by Landmass and Population
Spanning 30.37 million km², Africa comes second in total landmass only to Asia. Asia beats out Africa in regards to population as well, in 2021 it was reported that Africa has 1.37 billion people.
The Expected Population Boom
Currently, Africa makes up approximately 17% of the world’s population. However, that number is expected to grow over the coming years. It is projected that by 2050 Africa will make up 26% of the population with 2.5 billion people, and by 2100 it will make up 39% of the population with 4.3 billion people.
Contains the Most Countries per Continent
With such a large landmass you can only expect Africa to be home to a large number of countries. And even though it may not be the biggest continent on earth, it does contain the most countries per continent with 54 countries total.
Least Developed Continent
To this day, Africa remains the world’s most underdeveloped and poorest continent. As of 2020, the poorest countries in Africa are Burundi, Somalia, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, and Mozambique. (See full report here.)
Africa is home to approximately 2,000 different ethnic groups speaking over 3,000 different languages. The most common languages, in order, are Arabic, English, Swahili, and French.
Home to 50% of the World’s French Speaking Population
Reminiscent of France’s colonial past, 50% of the world’s French speaking population lives in Africa. The DRC has the largest population of French speakers out of any country in the world. Meaning more people in the DRC, over 77 million people to be precise, speak French than the whole population of France itself.
Other parts of Africa with the highest population of French speakers are the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Madagascar, and Niger.
Rich in Minerals
Africa is well known for its mineral riches and an abundance of essential metals found across the continent. Many of these metals are exported worldwide, such as uranium, nickel, and platinum.
The most infamous of the minerals found in Africa are diamonds and gold. The diamond industry has caused a considerable number of bloody conflicts over the years – earning them the nickname “blood diamonds.” Its gold mining accounts for about 40% of the total gold production worldwide, so its mineral riches are well established.
In fact, about 30% of the minerals produced worldwide originate in Africa, with Nigeria earning the top placement as the largest producer of petroleum. Suffice it to say that there’s a reason why European colonizers argued for the control of many parts of Africa, since their natural resources, including their access to precious minerals, are unrivaled.
The DRC: The Most Mineral-Rich Country in the World
The Democratic Republic of Congo is famous for its sheer abundance of minerals and natural resources, said to be worth over 24 trillion dollars. Diamonds are in ample supply in the south of the Congo, and other precious metals such as manganese, cadmium, and cobalt are also particularly prevalent.
Cobalt, in particular, gives the DRC its name as the most mineral-rich country since they export more cobalt than any other country worldwide.
Hottest Continent in the World
Sitting directly on the equator, Africa’s temperatures often soar to extreme heights, with many places only receiving a short period of rain every year. This is, in part, due to the existence of the Sahara Desert, and long periods of hot sun often last up to six months at a time.
The Sahara Desert, with temperatures of almost 104 °F (40 °C), is one of the hottest places on earth.
Mali Is the Hottest Country in the World
Since Africa is known as the hottest continent in the world, it makes sense that the hottest country is there, too. Mali has extended periods of hot, humid weather with very few periods of rainfall. Its tropical conditions, primarily throughout the early months of the year until May, are often the most humid conditions on earth.
Home to some of the most unique wildlife, many of them endemic, Africa keeps house for all kinds of animals. The presence of safaris and anti-poaching laws in many countries have protected many endangered species from their previous decline.
There are nearly 1,500 different species of birds alone in Africa, and that doesn’t include the hundreds of migratory birds who gather in their crowds every year.
Safaris are famous in Africa and often bring tourists to the continent every year, hoping for a glimpse of a giraffe or a herd of elephants. After colonizers took over the lands, animals weren’t allowed the freedom to roam the way they once did. As such, game reserves were created to benefit these creatures, giving them the freedom to wander in their natural habitat without fear of poachers.
One of the top destinations in Africa for safaris is Botswana. The government has gone to great lengths to protect endangered species from poachers and, as such, has become one of the most popular ecotourism havens.
Climate Diversity and Natural Beauty
Whether you’re looking for the arid heat of the desert, a snow-capped mountain, or a humid rainforest, you’ll find it in Africa. With such a vast abundance of geographical wonders and topographical beauty, the continent is arguably the most diversified place on the planet.
Here are some of the incredible geographical features in Africa:
Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the world’s most spectacular sights, arising out of the flat plains of Tanzania as if out of nowhere. Its beautiful snowy peak is actually a volcano, believe it or not, and its tip is named Uhuru – a word that means “freedom.” It’s also the very tip of Africa and rises higher than any other mountain on the continent.
It has been named a World Heritage site by UNESCO, so it’s definitely got the international stamp of approval. Surprisingly, it’s not so difficult to hike (if you’re comparing it to Mount Everest), so you’ll often find hordes of hikers gathering to climb it.
The Sahara Desert
The Sahara Desert is home to some of the most severe conditions in the world. With its long, rising sand dunes that stretch to over 3 million square miles (7 million sq. km), you won’t find much here but sand, sparse greenery, arid temperatures, and only two rivers across the whole desert.
Some reports have suggested that it could be one of the oldest areas still in existence in the world and could have been a desert land over 3 million years ago.
If you’re looking for wildlife, the Serengeti, out in the plains of Tanzania, is the place to be. Sprawling with hundreds of different species, this game reserve is one of the largest in existence. It has been hailed as a World Heritage site since the early 1980s, and there are a few good reasons for it.
The Serengeti has, quite literally, millions of animals. This unchanging landscape is a natural habitat that has hardly developed since its inception many hundreds of years ago, and animals have thrived there because of it.
The Nile River
Often known as the “Father of African Rivers,” the Nile stretches across many African countries and spills out into the Mediterranean sea. The longest river in existence, it progresses across the continent over 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles) and was once one of the most prominent origins of papyrus.
Today, the Nile is one of Africa’s essential sources of life. It connects people, brings trade to small communities, and is beautiful to boot.
Most people have heard of Victoria Falls, located directly between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Almost 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) across a treacherous overspill of water, you can actually see the mist that rises from miles away.
Victoria Falls is a must-see, known for its incredible features and its connection to both countries.
Located in Senegal, Lake Retba is known chiefly for its salt concentration and incredible pinkish color. Sitting next to sand dunes, the lake shifts in color throughout the year due to rainfall but most often remains a glorious shade of mauve.
Lake Retba is Senegal’s largest producer of salt, and thousands of workers every year wade in to collect the briny water.
Despite its odd name, Table Mountain is one of Africa’s most-visited features. One of the most popular characteristics of Table Mountain is its adorable colonies of African penguins sitting at the base of the mountain in the Boulders.
This colony was brought about in 1983, and its population is growing every year.
Spitzkoppe bears extraordinary similarities to the Matterhorn in Switzerland and is actually composed of two mountains: a small one and a larger one, the largest of which rises to over 1,700 meters (5,577 feet). You can find paintings in Spitzkoppe that are seemingly as old as time itself, so it’s worth visiting.
The Great Migration
The Great Migration is one of the earth’s most wondrous mysteries. Herds of animals travel in droves across Tanzania and Kenya every year, seemingly guided by their senses alone – the most incredible movement of creatures that has ever existed.
This arduous journey is often fraught with death, with animals desperate to find food and water sources for the months to come, and many of them giving birth on the way.
Although we don’t know how they know the direction in which to travel, some have speculated that rainfall and atmospheric clues guide them in their journey.
Bloukrans Bridge Bungy
Remember how I said Africa has everything? Well, if you’re an adrenaline junkie looking for the ride of your life, Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa has the highest bungy jump in the world.
Interestingly it’s also one of the cheapest thrill rides you’ll ever get, costing less than $100 per jump. If you’re afraid of heights, you don’t have to worry at Bloukrans Bridge – there hasn’t been a single accident there since its inception.
Casablanca is one of the least-visited cities in Morocco by tourists – but it’s actually a cultural and consumerist urban hub. Located in one of the most prominent ports in Morocco, businesses of all kinds thrive in Casablanca.
Also known as The White City, it was founded in the 7th century and is the perfect location for exploring the shorelines of Morocco. Although many people’s first reaction to Casablanca is of a concrete haven, it has a lot to offer and is known as the most prosperous city in Morocco.
Ancient Egyptians and the Pyramid of Giza
Built over 4,000 years ago, the Pyramids are incredible tombs created for the transition of Pharaohs into the afterlife. The immense tombs and surrounding temples were the burial grounds of all the essential earthly possessions of these kings, meant to give them guidance in their next life.
If you want to venture into the afterlife of the ancient Egyptians, the Pyramids of Giza are the most prominent historical artifacts still in existence today. Their construction supposedly began in the 4th century BC, and they were built to last – which they certainly did.
The Scramble for Africa
The Scramble for Africa refers to the European colonizers’ desperate clamor to take control over Africa, spanning from the late 1800s to the beginning of the First World War. These European powers slowly removed governmental authority from African leaders and placed themselves in control over vast regions of the continent.
Since then, this transition is often held responsible for the conflicts generated between warring factions on the continent. Africa is now just beginning to recover from its colonialist struggles.
Cairo Gold Crash
The Cairo Gold Crash (along with the crash of the cities of Mecca and Medina) has long been talked about. It all comes down to a king in the 14th century AD, a leader who traveled on pilgrimage to Mecca. He stopped on his travels in these three cities, handing out vast swathes of gold as a donation for each town.
While his donations may have come from a place of good intention, it devastated the economy of Cairo for almost a decade. Since gold was such an expensive commodity at the time, this new influx forced market increases to a catastrophic level – so much so that many people went bankrupt.
The Rwanda Genocide
In 1994, one of the most horrific genocides in history took place in Rwanda between two warring factions. Almost 1 million people were murdered – some say more – many of them members of the Tutsi population of the region.
Some have said that the Belgian government’s favoritism toward the Tutsi population during colonial rule exacerbated the tensions between the two factions. It ended in a bloody mass genocide that drove people in their thousands from the country.
The Expected Population Boom
Although many countries in the world are experiencing a distinct population decline, Africa is rising in the ranks. It is said their population will increase threefold by 2050, with potentially 400 million people residing on the continent alone.
There could be many reasons for this population boom, but the likely factors are soaring rates of fertility and a lack of acceptance (or lack of access) regarding contraception throughout the continent.
Nelson Mandela, a bastion of freedom and democracy, was born in 1918 and originally named Rolihlahla Mandela. His name was changed due to local traditions of giving children Christian names.
He rose through the ranks of independent organizations fighting for freedom until he was incarcerated. After his eventual release in 1990, Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize and went on to become South Africa’s president – the first one to have won the title democratically.
Mandela’s Apartheid movement has become one of the foremost examples of defiance in the face of government (and social) oppression and continues to make waves even after his death.
You may not know this, but Elon Musk was actually born in South Africa. Growing up in Pretoria, Musk finally moved to Canada to become one of the richest business moguls on earth.
Elon Musk is associated with Paypal and Tesla, among other companies, and recently bought Twitter for a whopping $44 billion – making him one of the most influential people in existence.
A South African comedian and host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, Trevor Noah got his start in 2014 as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewarts.
- National Geographic: Where Is the Birthplace of Humankind?
- Smithsonian Magazine: How Africa Became the Cradle of Humankind
- Science: Experts Question Study Claiming to Pinpoint Birthplace of All Humans
- Discover Magazine: Where Was the Birthplace of Modern Humans?
- National Geographic: Africa Resources
- Al Jazeera: Mapping Africa’s Natural Resources
- UNEP: Our Work in Africa
- Global Edge: Democratic Republic of Congo
- Energy Capital Power: DRC: A Resource Rich Country
- Journey Z: What is the Hottest Country on Earth?
- Maps of the World: What is the Hottest Continent?
- Arabia Weather: What is the Hottest Country on Earth?
- Travel Tomorrow: Top 10 Hottest Countries in the World
- Britannica: Animal Life in Africa
- Exodus Travels: Top 10 Destinations for African Safaris
- Geography: Climate
- National Geographic: Kilimanjaro
- Britannica: Kilimanjaro
- Live Science: Sahara Desert
- Britannica: Sahara Desert
- Serengeti: Home
- Tanzania Tourism: Serengeti National Park
- Britannica: Nile River
- National Geographic: Nile River
- Zambia Tourism: Victoria Falls
- World Heritage Convention: Victoria Falls
- Travel with Brothers: Senegal Dakar: the Pink Water of Lake Retba
- World Atlas: Lake Retba
- Table Mountain National Park: Home
- San Parks: Table Mountain Attractions
- Info Namibia: Spitzkoppe
- Asilia Africa: Great Wildebeest Migration
- Exodus Travels: The Great Migration in Africa: Where, When & Why You Should See it
- Face Adrenalin: Home
- Tsitsikamma: Bloukrans Bungy
- 7 Continents 1 Passport: Bloukrans Bridge Bungee Jumps
- Visit Morocco: Casablanca
- Journal of Nomads: Things to Do in Casablanca Morocco
- National Geographic: Giza Pyramids
- Smithsonian: Pyramids
- St John’s College UoC: The Scramble for Africa
- New World Encyclopedia: Scramble for Africa
- Smart Asset: 4 People Who Single Handedly Caused Economic Crises
- Encyclopedia: Mansa Musa Makes His Hajj, Displaying Mali’s Wealth In Gold And Becoming The First Sub-Saharan African Widely Known Among Europeans
- Britannica: Rwanda Genocide of 1994
- History: Rwandan Genocide
- Quartz Africa: Africa’s Population Will Triple By the End of the Century Even as the Rest of the World Shrinks
- Economist: Africa’s Population Will Double by 2050
- The Conversation: What’s Driving Africa’s Population Growth and What Can Change It
- Nelson Mandela: Biography
- Nobel Prize: Nelson Mandela Biographical
- News Week: Black Conservatives are Praising ‘African American’ Elon Musk